Small but mighty stands the affectionately named Apple Isle. Tasmania’s tiny size makes the island perfect for a scenic spin in the car – but where should one begin? The Great Eastern Drive is a great place to start.
Orford and Maria Island
Setting off from Orford, nearby Triabunna – seven minutes away by car – runs a ferry to Maria Island, pronounced mah-rye-ah. This historic isle isn’t just a rugged outpost for an huge wombat population (curious kids will adore this about Maria, however), it’s also a wonderfully rugged place with fascinating sandstone formations, pristine beaches and a several historical relics from its penal colony days worth exploring, whether on foot or by bike.
Less than 60 kilometres north, you’ll arrive at one of Tassie’s premier beach holiday towns, Swansea. Antiquing (Felicity’s is a treasure trove with a tea room attached), winery visiting and oyster slurping are the main must-dos so take the foot off the pedal for a few days and get to slowing down.
In under an hour, sleepy Bicheno will come into view. This charming town is the gateway to the diving paradise of nearby Governor Island Marine Reserve, where both on-land and underwater activities satisfy passionate animal lovers. Clusters of fish and rock lobsters mingle among kelp gardens and sea sponges under the surface, while back on land it’s not unusual to catch a flurry of fairy penguins around dusk. Take a turn with Bicheno Penguin Tours to see these little guys up close.
Detour: Wineglass Bay
The sand wraps around the sea like a shooting star – fitting for a place that leaves people feeling as if they’ve just seen something out of this world. Wineglass Bay, in Freycinet National Park, is a popular stop along Tassie’s east coast. From Bicheno, it’s a half-hour trip to the fringe of Freycinet, where you can leave the car and follow the trail to The Hazard mountain range lookout point. Camping in the park is also popular – so popular, in fact, that there’s a ballot system in peak times to quell overcrowding. Don’t forget to send an email to secure a place in advance.
Water babies won’t be able to resist an extended stay in St Helens, where an itinerary can soon overflow with opportunities to get wet. Scuba diving, fishing, snorkelling, sailing and strolling along the sand populate your days in the coastal town, as well as enjoying the spoils of the sea – scallops, abalone, rock lobster and oysters are fabulous here. Want to get to know your critters before crunching on them? Book in for a seafood cooking class at Kiss a Fish Cookery School, which, of course, overlooks the sea.
Detour: St Mary’s and Fingal
At the gateway to the Fingal Valley, St Mary’s is a worthy stop if only to experience the cast of characters that populate the town. From quirky giftware shops to the adorably cosy Purple Possum Wholefoods and Café, St Mary’s will fuel you before your trip demands you head further into the valley to explore mountainous terrain, waterfalls, rainforests and scenic farmland. Looking to channel your own Rosehaven moment? Visit St Mary’s during the World Coal Shovelling Championships, a highlight of the town’s annual festival.
Bay of Fires
The 50-kilometre stretch from Binalong Bay to Eddystone Point is some of the most picturesque on the island, with its gathering of glittering inlets and view over the Tasman. It’s Binalong Bay in particular that captures the imagination (and many a stray summer hour) of visitors: a veil of white sand with an artic-tinged ocean tickling at its edges, punctured by the brick-red lichen of nearby rock scatters is almost too pretty to resist.
SEE ALSO: 5 Lesser-Known Walks Around Tasmania